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Migrant Labour crisis in India

A 34-year-old man died after walking over 100 kilometers from her workplace in Bhupalpally district of Telangana to her native village in Chhattisgarh's Bijapur district. He was 11 kilometers away from home. We have nothing to eat from past 4 days and no one comes for our help, we have to go our hometowns.

These are some headlines we come to read these days through print media or through Electronic media. All these are news of those migrant labour who are far from their village to earn money for their family survival. Some of us might not be aware with the word migrant labour, who they are?

Migrant labour:

They are casual and unskilled workers who move about systematically from one region to another offering their services on a temporary, usually seasonal, basis. They leave their hometown and went to a big city for work.

Reasons for migration of workers:

Mostly we see seasonal migration of workers, an overwhelming 120 million people or more are estimated to migrate from rural areas to urban labour markets, industries and farms. One of the main reasons of migration is shortage of rainfall or excess rainfall. Mostly they are from regions that face frequent shortages of rainfall or suffer floods, or where population densities are high in relation to land. Areas facing unresolved social or political conflicts also become prone to high out migration. Poverty, lack of local options and the availability of work elsewhere become the trigger and the pull for rural migration respectively.

Condition of Migrant workers in India

Challenges like Struggling with low wages, physical and sexual exploitation with safety and security are problems faced by migrant workers and more specifically the unorganized sector in India. We might find better condition of these workers on paper but in reality nothing is good with them and no labour laws are followed by industrialists. They are forced to work more hours without extra wages and even get less wages than directed by government.

They often get caught in exploitative labour arrangements that forces them to work in low-end, low-value, hazardous work. Lack of identity and legal protection accentuates this problem. The hardships of migrant workers are especially magnified when state boundaries are crossed and the distance between the "source" and "destination" increases.

Migrants can also become easy victims of identity politics and parochialism. The urban labour markets treat them with opportunistic indifference extracting hard labour but denying basic entitlements such as decent shelter, fair priced food, subsidized healthcare facilities or training and education. They are people who are affected first, whenever such types of crisis comes but nobody pays attention to theirs problems.

Crisis due to lockdown:

Whole world is fighting with this lethal pandemic situation and on 25th of March our government take decision to lockdown our country completely for 21 days. There was a nationwide pause after the decision came and everyone were trapped, where they were. This lockdown badly affected daily wages labors. Trains and buses went out of service with almost no notice, giving people little time to leave.

In a survey by Jan sahas, over half of India's daily wage and migrant population earns just Rs200-400 a day, much below the prescribed minimum wage of Rs692, Rs629 and Rs571 for skilled, semi-skilled, and unskilled workers respectively and over 40% of migrant workers surveyed did not have any food supplies. Only a handful of them said they had ration to support their households for two to four weeks and all these fear forced them to walk thousands of kilometers for their hometowns.

Due to rumors, we saw gathering of these people across different places in the country which was a big thread for the spread of this pandemic virus. This lockdown nearly affect 40 million migrant labours. As per 2011 census, total number of internal migrants in India, is 45.37 crore or 37.2% of the country's overall population. It includes inter-state migrants as well as migrants within each state, while the recent exodus is mainly due to the movement of inter-state migrants.

Migrant workers, who were dismissed by employers, having no protection from their respective governments, and are often thrown out of their accommodation by their landlords, in urgent need of food transport and money, driven by desperation to walk home. It is a scene many have described as reminiscent of the migration at Partition. This is the outcome of the largest and one of the strictest lockdowns in the world enforced during the coronavirus disease crisis � a lockdown that has been widely applauded internationally.

There had been rumors of train services restarting, and the workers had gathered defying rules of social distancing, putting themselves and others at risk. They demanded that authorities arrange transport to send them back to their hometowns and villages so that they could be with their families. The police, instead, used sticks to disperse them. Around the same time in western state of Gujarat, hundreds of textile workers protested in Surat city, demanding passage home. And a day later, there was outrage in Delhi when several hundred migrants were discovered living under a bridge along the Yamuna River. The river here resembles a sewer and the bank is strewn with rubbish.

Not seeing much response from government a bulk of people leave the cities for their villages, they all decided to walk towards their villages seeing no other option left for them. We all saw a bulk of people all around the street of our country who were walking to their hometowns carrying their luggage on their shoulder and family with them. This was the scene on the road between the capital of India and the capital of its most populous state.

Lot and lots of heartbreaking news comes to us through media or through other social platforms about these migrant labours. While talking to media some of them said:
�corona se to baad me marenge, bhukh se pehle mar jaayenge.

Most of them move from villages to work in the cities as domestic helpers, drivers and gardeners, or as daily-wagers on construction sites, building malls, flyovers and homes, or as street vendors and now they have no job and have nothing to eat. Central government as well as state government was doing everything they can do, they distribute free Ration to all the poor, opens many shelter homes where these people can live and free food was there for them, but reaching to all people was difficult.

Although our government is transferring money to people's account but those are not sufficient for whole family. Some of them neither will be able to access food rations and cash transfers announced under a $22 billion package for poor people, because they don't have identity cards in cities. Seeing condition of workers the government decides to send workers to their hometown, the workers saw a release and lined up to go back. Now the problem was how to control the flow. There is no way to pick a few from the crores who wish to travel back. So, there was a money filter, the cruelest way to keep the poor out. Even though the state had promised to bear the costs of the tickets, the laborers were not just made to pay for the tickets but were overcharged as well, those workers who could not pay did not board the trains. Some were detained to board the train only because they don't have proper documentation and some were unable to register themselves.

We should remember that Migrant labors are the person who make everything which we need to live a better life, whether it is our beautiful houses, or the offices where we work. If they suffers, it directly affect our industries because a lot of them work in some or other industry and it affect the economy of our country. Although there are laws for protection of migrants labors, but a sound system is required to implement these laws strictly. It should be remember that they are also human being and they deserve every right that a human being possess.� �

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